Google searches affect environment

London | Updated: Jan 13 2009, 05:09am hrs
The next time you do a Google search from your computer, please spare a little thought for the environment.

A new study has revealed that performing two Google searches from a desktop computer can generate about the same amount of carbon dioxide as boiling a kettle for a cup of tea, which adversely affects the environment. According to researchers, a typical search generates about 7g of CO2 while boiling a kettle generates about 15g.

Google operates huge data centres around the world that consume a great deal of power. Google are very efficient but their primary concern is to make searches fast and that means they have a lot of extra capacity that burns energy.

A Google search has a definite environmental impact, lead researcher Alex Wissner-Gross of Harvard University was quoted by The Sunday Times as saying.

In fact, Googles search engine generates high levels of CO2 because of the way it operateswhen one types in a Google search for, say, energy saving tips, the request does not go to just one server but to several even miles apart. And, Googles infrastructure sends data from whichever produces the answer fastest. Though the system helps minimize delays, it raises energy consumption. Google has servers in the US, Europe, Japan and China.

Wissner-Gross and colleagues have also calculated the CO2 emissions caused by individual use of the Internet. They have found that viewing a simple web page generates about 0.02 g of CO2 per second. And, this rises tenfold to about 0.2g of CO2 a second when viewing a website with complex images, animations or even videos, the study has found.

However, Google, which has become one of the hottest companies in Silicon Valley, answering to 40% of the estimated 375 million queries thrown out on the web each day, says: We are among the most efficient of all Internet search providers.

But, a separate estimate from carbonfootprint.com, a British environmental consultancy, also puts the CO2 emissions of a Google search at between 1g and 10g, depending on whether one has to start ones PC or not.

PTI